Review in six words: sisters, murder, siblings, whodunit, bad parenting
Free flow ramblings: Grace is the older sister to a cooler more wild, more world-wise Nica who shows up dead by gunshot. Setting is a boarding school so of course, we get class issues, drug use, promiscuity, all of it. Nica is sleeping with everyone, it seems, so we wonder who ISN’t a suspect? But the school and the police conveniently find a suicide with confession note. Gracie isn’t buying it. A few of the situations she gets herself into are almost ridiculous but we buy it because kids are confusing and confused and doubts are huge; motivation-exploration and self-awareness are numbed by drugs and avoidance even as she keeps placing herself into conversations and confrontations to solve her sister’s murder. All is solved in the end and those plot turns and twists are just a part of the ride.
I don’t “get” the title… oh wait! I do!! Ha, ok, took me way waaaay too long, but Mom is a photographer. I guess that’s the connection. Mom is a real peach if you like fiction with icky mother-daughter storylines.
Thoughts by Kayla Rae Whitaker, Random House 2016, 372 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction – I hate that this is a genre! Wait… IS “contemporary fiction’ actually a GENRE? Surely a better response would be ‘fiction that involves creative arts’, perhaps maybe ‘fiction relating to dysfunctional families impact on friendships/partnerships’, then there could be this ‘fiction that features lots of drug use into adulthood’. Surely I am missing many many more subgenres…
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
Why I read this now: The library called. My hold was available.
MOTIVATION for READING: Have I got a story to tell! Well, ok. It’s exciting to me, so… Bear with me.
Last December, I responded to a tweet suggesting that if you wanted a book recommendation, just respond with the last thing you ate and what you were wearing.
Here’s the exchange:
and she responded with this:
So I put it on my tbr. (I must have known it was on the long list for TOB. right?)
THEN!!! It made the short list for the TOB. Oh YEA.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Well, this part aint so easy.
I’ve mentioned that it involves creative arts, dysfunctional families and the impact of such on friendships and partnerships – both love and work, then that it features lots of drug use into adulthood?
Sharon Kisses, who considers herself heterosexual, meets Mel Vaughn, a rude crude lesbian who is basically a raging horndog drug addict (or IS she?!), and they form an amazing collaborative creative team for visual story-telling.
Questions pop up. How important is ‘permission’ when another’s life story is part of the “YOUR STORY” you want to share in a very public way? How much of the overlap is yourstory versus theirstory?
How much of the story and the subsequent story is MINE, ours, YOURS?
What’s NOT so good: Ah. Ah, yes. . . I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?
I would feel for Sharon and then wonder, “Uh what happened? Crap, she’s an asshole.” I always liked Mel, but she was always painted as the sympathetic to-be-sympathized-with-nut crazy, so you would forgive her. She was very well-drawn. Sharon, who truly is the primary character, thus PROTAGONIST of this drama life tale, is a slippery one. To me. She would surprise me and usually NOT in a good way. Yet. She was ALMOST empathized with? maybe?
FINAL THOUGHTS: I liked this, I did. And there were a ton of pie mentions so I was often validated in my quest to find a pie mention in my literature (#selfishmaybecertainlystrange). I read some really-not-good reviews and some praising reviews and overall, I liked this very much. So… with all the terrific pie that our characters eat, I give this
RATING: Four slices of pie! I will go with strawberry pie.
I’m glad to have read this. It was different and I learned a lot about lots of things – mostly the creative collaborative animated cartoon concepts and maybe living in NYC. I look forward to spirited debate on this crazy tale.
Thoughts by Jordan Sonnenblick, Brilliance Audio 2011 (orig 2004), 4 hours 31 minutes
Narrated by Joel Johnstone – great job!
Genre: YA/Middle School Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
Why I read this now: It was short.
MOTIVATION for READING: I don’t often remember by motivations, I sometimes just read things, buy books, let the mood and whim drive me. That said, I do know that I bought this purely because it had PIE in the title. Audible sent me an email specifically targeting my pie obsession and I didn’t think twice. Probably didn’t think once.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: When I hit play on my phone to start this audiobook, I didn’t have one clue what it was about. I didn’t know it was kid lit. I only expected drums, girls and pie. Sure, I suppose I could have guessed that a book with this title could be about a teen boy who plays the drums and chases girl. Shrug. I didn’t really think about it at all. I just hit PLAY.
And what I found out was that Steven is in a middle school jazz band and he is a very good drummer. He is infatuated with the prettiest girl in class and has a girl best friend that he really doesn’t treat very well. We (yes, I just switched to the plural all of us, ‘we’) learn that Steven has an annoying little kid brother named Jeffrey, age 5, who — of course — knows just how to annoy his big brother, whom he idolizes, of course.
Then we find out that Jeffrey has leukemia.
WHAT’s GOOD: Kick in the gut good. Heartfelt and compassionate. And it’s FUNNY! Yes, there is humor.
What’s NOT so good: As a teacher, I found myself getting very emotional to those suggestive thoughts that we never quite know how to help our students and don’t often know what hard things they are dealing with. This hit close to home for me. I feel like I didn’t do enough for my students this year and I also don’t know what I could have done but there is always ‘never enough’. This isn’t a complaint or criticism of the book but I actually wish I had listened to it before May. I don’t have time to fix any of the never enough cases I want to attempt to help with. Prayers will have to do at this point in the school year.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you are a middle school teacher or any teacher who appreciates a funny and loving book that has teacher-student interactions, I recommend.
As a goodreads friend reviewed, “Very very sweet. And it’s even a cancer book.“
RATING: Four slices of apple pie. (The dangerous pie isn’t edible.)
Type/Source: eBook and Audio / Amazon
Why I read this now: It’s a hot book right now!
MOTIVATION for READING: This story is getting lots of praise and I wanted to get in on that.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Starr is a sixteen year old black girl who lives in a depressed area of a big city and attends a prep school in a predominantly white area. One night after a party, Starr is given a ride home by young black male friend and he is pulled over by the cops. He is shot and killed; Starr has to navigate this event up close and personal. Her cultures clash, her identity is fractured; she is scared and angry.
WHAT’s GOOD: Thomas decided to give the world this gift of fiction, a story, in response to and an exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement. It isn’t a story specifically addressing the movement, rather a situation that stresses the realities and the complications that many blacks face in our country. Where to live, where to go to school, how to navigate threats to body and soul?
“We have a sustained problem in America,” Thomas said. “When officers take off that uniform they’re no longer a ‘blue life’ – I can’t take my black skin off. I wanted this book to explain why we say those three words.”
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it extremely well done on so many levels – a gripping read, a sympathetic character, believable and complicated supporting cast members, a forceful not-unreasonable emotional tone, great pacing. It offers humor, some punches to the gut, a candid look at humanity.
“Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?” – Angie Thomas
Thoughts by Sarah Pinborough, Flatiron Books 2017, 318 pages
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Type/Source: eBook / Kindle
Why I read this now: For one of my bookclubs (May)
MOTIVATION for READING: One of the book groups I follow on Facebook asked for titles that had the best #WTFending. I think I might have selected it because it was also the least expensive of a list I attempted to put together for a vote. No one wanted to vote so I made a decision.
Eek! Just realized book club is TOMORROW!
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A single mom named Louise meets what she thinks could be a ‘nice guy’ at a bar and they get along so well — even sharing a good night kiss. However, the next day, she realizes this nice guy is actually the new doctor in the office she works. OOPS. And, he is married. Bummer.
Soon after, she bumps into not-so-nice guy’s wife. They become friends, against Louise’s better judgement. But Adele is so beautiful and sweet and seems so fragile. Louise is curious; she just can’t help herself.
And then David, the new doctor not-so-nice guy pursues Louise to have an affair and again, Louise can’t help herself.
Danger lurks everywhere! Throw in that Adele wants to rescue Louise – help her quit smoking and start exercising, etc. She also has ideas on how Louise can get better sleep and even manage her nightmares and sleep walking. Adele says to keep it all a secret from David.
WHAT’s GOOD: The author did a commendable job layering the little odd details — of course, most obvious in hindsight now that I think about it. Considering the reader KNOWs about the #WTFending and that the reader MUST pay attention, the introduction of clues was well done. To even mention some of the things I want to say will be spoileriffic – can’t wait for club!
What’s NOT so good: I’m really not the best fan of these and may not be the target audience so take any criticisms with a grain of salt. So if you LOVE thrillers like this, it will likely be one of those books that the sooner you get to, the better. I found the device of self asking questions rather tedious at times.
(Note: I had to get We Were Liars when it was all the rage, and I really did NOT like it. Ugh. This one is better, imo.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you want to know if I agree that the book deserves the hashtag #WTFending, I will tell you, “Yes.” Did I like the book? That’s a more difficult question. These kinds of stories are not my favorite, but I kept reading because I HAD TO KNOW! The writing is fine, I have already praised the construction. Pacing was OK. Characters were OK. The fun will be in discussing and sharing and finding out if you figure it out or if you were gobsmocked.
RATING: Three slices of apple pie.
“I wandered through the house, ate some of my mum’s apple pie that was in the fridge, and then went up to my old room, got into bed, and went to sleep.”
Thoughts : And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Back Bay Books 2010, 416 pages
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Cutlery Category
Genre: Pop Science
Type/Source: Tradeback Paperback / Local Indie Bookstore
Why I read this now: I think it took me all month to read it. I wanted something new and different after all the 2016 pub’d books I had furiously flown through.
MOTIVATION for READING: I like fun science. This satisfied the cutlery challenge and looked interesting. My other option was Consider the Fork about technology and food. (Yep, another nonfiction.) If you want a title with a knife, I only recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go if you have ALL books in the series. I hate cliffhangers.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The author walks the reader through the elements of the Chemistry Periodic Table regaling with history, personalities, OF COURSE some science and other oddball tidbits to fascinate.
Jupiter is a fantasy camp for elements.
WHAT’s GOOD: Easy to understand sections about how they figure the age of the world. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes about the fascinating scientists that worked out these challenges. The author does a fair job of recognizing and discussing privilege in science/history. And how much we still don’t understand – the chapter on the alpha constant! It’s everywhere – totally fascinating. He highlights many recent stories that show how science of the elements is still evolving. [doh. The study of medicine/pharmacology, anyone?!] I know that I have internal bias that science discovery was all done ‘back then’ and when he mentions research and experiments past 2005 — I admit, I am embarrassed to wonder “hey- that is recent!” Maybe it is the realization that I have lived some of this history but how can I be that old already? It really is an odd thing to sense one’s own aging; it still befuddles me.
“If anything runs deeper than a mathematician’s love of variables, it’s a scientist’s love of constants.”
What’s NOT so good: I had to have two bookmarks – one for the text and the other in the footnotes section. I’ll never remember most of it! Only occasionally, the presentation is dense and extremely technical but also easy to skip over and get to the good stuff.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like science history, this is a don’t-miss. But then again, if you really love science history, you probably know a lot of it already.
It often reminded me of that episode of the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon adopts the cats…
Thoughts by Colm Quilligan, Writers’ Island 4th Ed 2017 (orig 2008), 160 pages
The story of Dublin pubs and the writers they served.
Challenge: Tour Dublin
Genre: Travel, Literary Travel!!
Type/Source: Tradeback / purchased directly from the author
Why I read this now: Cuz I bought it from the source AT the source.
MOTIVATION for READING: To see if I really saw Dublin as I hope to have seen it. (yea, not quite, dammit.)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This book is a guide to all the cool literary places to visit in Dublin! It is NOT the thing to buy on your last day in Dublin. It is preferable to read before setting foot in Dublin but not too far in advance probably (based on ME, cuz I am really horrible about reading stuff pre-visit to places. (What is really crazy is that I can replay that in my head in an Irish accent but I suck at an Irish-accent-attempt live.))
WHAT’s GOOD: Pretty pictures! Slick copy! Cool places! MUST. GET. BACK. TO DUBLIN. Guinness really does taste better in Dublin. Sigh.
This book is packed with places (with addresses – good), photos, interesting tidbits, famous people and other people that may not be known to everyone, fascinating history, etc etc etc. The index is extensive, too, which I know will impress the fussiest of nonfiction-lovers. And a bibliography!
If you read yesterday’s post on Delaney’s Dublin book, you’ll know about The Bailey pub and maybe could tell that it doesn’t look ‘old’. Interesting bit: Delaney lamented that 7 Eccles Street was not a stop on any tour (he does give quite a bit of history why Joyce chose that address in Ulysses) and now Quilligan explains more:
The Bailey was part of the Brown Thomas department store building, which was bough by Marks and Spencer in 1994. The pub and landmark restaurant were closed and quickly gutted, prompting a controversy about where to put the door of 7 Eccles Street, the fictional home of Leopold Bloom (the door had been part of the foyer of the Bailey). Thankfully, the door found a new home at the James Joyce Centre on North Great Georges Street, where it enhance the excellent permanent exhibition that transferred there from the National Library.
We didn’t get to the Joyce Centre on Great Georges. #sadface. I also failed to find the statue of Joyce that was supposed to be on one of the main boulevards, according to the map. I was riding the bus, camera ready and failed to spot it, I guess.
What’s NOT so good: That feeling of wanting to turn around and go back to Dublin immediately because I read this on the plane ride back to America.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Must go back, all there is to it. I follow some cool Twitter pages for promoting Dublin and I just yesterday saw a place I want to go visit that isn’t in this book and now I’m wondering just how big is that town?!
Highly recommended you read this prior to your trip and also enjoy the actual Pub Crawl when you get there.The Crawl is lively and informative with song and ditties and opportunities to taste a beverage or two; but gives only just a little slice of what can be discovered with this book.
RATING: Four slices of pie; Guinness Beef Pie or and even a Guinness Chocolate Cherry Pie? No pie mentioned (or I missed it?)
Thoughts by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages
Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend
MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.
So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.
Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.
FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?
A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.
So for the ‘now’ of 2017, many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.
WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.
Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.
What’s NOT so good: Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.
I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.
As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.
“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”
I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.
Thoughts by Trevor Noah, Audible 2016, 8 hours 50 minutes
Challenge: No challenge involved.
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible (a freebie announcement I happened to catch.)
Why I read this now: I needed an easy listen that was short.
MOTIVATION for READING: I love comedian memoirs on audio.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A coming of age tale a few years before Apartheid in South Africa and years following.
WHAT’s GOOD: Fascinating look at a life and cultures of which I know little.
What’s NOT so good: I wanted to know more about how he came to America and got his start in television. Guess that part will be in his next book. Trust me, the ‘early years’ of Trevor Noah have plenty of drama!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Highly recommended. Narration is terrific.
Thoughts by Samantha Hunt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016, 336 pages
Challenge: TOB Long List
Genre: Contemporary Lit? Not horror, as some have suggested.
Type/Source: eBook / Kindle
Why I read this now: Only book not yet read on my eReader that is also on the TOB Long List.
MOTIVATION for READING: I downloaded this waaaaay back when. When Julianne of Outlandish Lit had her weird book reading adventure and then the book had a daily deal, I think. I do not usually pay the big bucks for eBooks… I will pay anything to read a Hardcover, it seems.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Cora is an adult and not feeling too ambitious about it all but she loves her mother. Her mother was a foster kid that got out and survived to be a decent mother herself despite not having a good example to follow. We don’t get much of Mom nor Grandma’s stories but we get enough.
So, Cora gets herself in a predicament and her Aunt Ruth, mom’s sister, comes to take her on a little trip, a walking trip. Call this a ROAD TRIP book. We have mistreated foster kids, religious cults, mothers and daughters, attempts at ‘adulting’, talking to the dead, con men, meteorites and Carl Sagan, odd music references that I still want to look up and just might but I’m at work and don’t judge me that I can write book reviews while at work but they don’t have much work-work to give me and I feel I’m doing academic work here in bookbloggerland, couldn’t you agree? I just can’t, however, play videos and listen to tunes. Must be aware…
WHAT’s GOOD: I really liked this and though I only gave it 4 slices on goodreads I can only blame that on my rating ability going haywire in December. This book was so much more than I expected and dare I say it was sweet? It had tender moments.
What’s NOT so good: I’m really not sure – it could be that I missed it – but I never quite figured out the title… I don’t ‘get’ the cover art, either. Maybe I’ll have to reread it. Maybe I should do the audiobook. I bet this would be an awesome audiobook – can anyone testify?
FINAL THOUGHTS: It has humor and light among the dark and gritty. I reallyliked it. The ending brings it all together AND surprises.
RATING: Four slices of apple pie with extra whipped cream.
p.301 “…you’re feeling bad about serving your wife up to me like a tasty piece of pie, but that doesn’t mean you can just give her my money.”
I hope this makes the TOB! I will be cheering for it.